We took a girl to the hospital today because she had a bad dream.

She’s 16.

Mom and dad followed in their car. After having grandma come sit with their 14-year old.

Patient went to triage.

Where she went back to sleep.

Life saved.


Ducks everywhere

Smokey and I saw a sign outside a house today.

“Holistic Chiropractic Care”

Is that like a double quack? A quack quack?

It turns out oils and adjustments won’t stop epilepsy.


He’s alert

Some guy had a seizure. Or syncope. Or something like that.

A lot was “lost in translation,” as they say.

The house smells of strange cooking and there is fancy looking artwork and sculptures all around.

This guy was visiting some family, and just got to the States a couple of days ago. He’s from Angola, according to the passport handed to me.

We’re the second unit on scene, and the fire guys are busy trying to do an assessment. From all outward appearances, the guy is fine, but he doesn’t speak much, if any, English. They’re trying to determine his level of consciousness.

“Are you hurting any where?”¬†one guy yells at him, as though increased volume makes it easier to understand your foreign language.

His translator repeats the question and the patient’s answer: “No.”

Fire dude number three reports the absolutely normal vital signs.

Translator says the patient doesn’t want to go to the hospital.

“Sir,” fire dude number one continues to yell, “I’ve got some strange questions I have to ask you.”

We all wait, impatiently, for these potentially pertinent interrogatories.

“Can you tell me what year it is?”


“Can you tell me what day it is?”

“Uh, Thursday.”

“Can you tell me who the President is?”*

“Jose Eduardo dos Santos.”

“Can you tell me how many quarters are in a dollar?”**

“I have no idea.”

“Well, sir, we are going to have to take you to the hospital, it seems that you are sorta confused, and you might need to get that checked out.”

I’m too busy checking out these cool ass paintings, but that’s when I hear Smokey chime in.

“Nah, he’s good.”

The fire dudes look at him with befuddlement. “But he’s confused. He doesn’t know who the president is, and he doesn’t know how many quarters are in a dollar.”

“He’s not from America, and according to his passport, he came to the United States on Tuesday, through LaGuardia. The president of Angola is Jose de Santos, and their currency isn’t the dollar, it’s the Kwanza, so he’s probably never heard of a quarter.”***

They look crushed and impressed at the same time. Later, Smokey would tell me he hit up the Wikipedia page for Angola while the fire dudes were yelling at the patient. We got the refusal.

He was alert.


*this question rarely, if ever, matters, and more often than not elicits a response that is unnecessary.

**this question is just as dumb.

***I prefer “What’s your name? “Where are you?” What day and year is it?” and “Can you tell me exactly what happened for us to be called here?” when getting a refusal. But hey, to each fire dude their own.





Her name was Elizabeth.

In a previous life, while younger, and less mature, she was known as Betty. She had worked first as a stripper, then as an escort, in order to support her drug habit.

But then she cleaned herself up. She went to rehab, got sober, and stayed that way. She quit stripping, and she quit hooking. She left all her old friends behind, and began a new life. She enrolled in college and began working towards a communications degree.

She met a nice man in college.

A nice man who had a dark side all his own.

Her new boyfriend had been involved in selling drugs in the past, but swore that he wasn’t involved in that life anymore. He was clean, sober, and was a manager at a cellphone store in a strip mall. She accepted his past and believed that it was in his past. He accepted her past and believed it was in her past.

By all accounts, they were a happy couple.

Then one day they both had a rare day off. Her classes had been cancelled, and he scheduled himself off so he could renew his car’s license plate. They planned a day together. They went to the mall together and shopped. They went to an early dinner at a local place, and decided to go back to his place and watch a movie on Netflix before she went home.

She refused to live with her boyfriend, and said she wouldn’t live with a man unless she was married. Plus, she had an early start in the morning.

But his apartment wasn’t empty.

His apartment was occupied by three men, two convicted felons and one man who had yet remained out of the prison system.

One man had been in and out of prison 6 times by the time he was 35 years old. He had accumulated a total of 25 years of sentences, serving only 5 years total. At the time he was an uninvited guest in the apartment of Elizabeth’s boyfriend, he was on parole, having served only 2 years of a 15-year sentence for possession of cocaine and obstruction of a law enforcement officer.

Another man was several years younger, but was more familiar with the criminal justice system, beginning his cycle of incarceration when he was only 17, and had served 6 separate stints in prison. He had racked up an impressive 111 years total of sentences, somehow managing to only serve a total of 23 months. At the time he was an uninvited guest in the apartment of Elizabeth’s boyfriend, he was also on parole, having served less than 1 year of an 8-year sentence for forgery.

Her boyfriend opened the door, and saw the uninvited guests in his living room. They weren’t unknown to him, but they were unknown to Elizabeth. Her boyfriend had, behind her back, been dealing cocaine again. And this time, he owed some money to some unsavory people.

The uninvited guests that were currently in his apartment.

He ran as soon as he saw them in his apartment, and he was shot in the side. A graze wound, if you will. It was minor enough for him to be treated and released on the scene.

Elizabeth didn’t get away.

The three men in her boyfriend’s apartment forced her inside and forced her to her knees. They repeatedly demanded to know where the money was, where the drugs were, and what her boyfriend did with both.

But she didn’t know. She was useless to them.

When it became apparent that she knew nothing about money, and nothing about drugs, a gun was forced to her forehead, hard enough to leave an abrasion, and she was shot.

The lowlife killers ran as fast as they could from that apartment, with no drugs, and no money, and they left a beautiful young lady on the floor, gasping for breath.

She was dead, but her body didn’t know it yet.

She continued to breathe agonally for the next 20 minutes or so. Long enough to traumatize a brand-new EMT. Long enough to leave her blood and brain matter on the floor of an ambulance, soaked into the stretcher pad, and on the pants of the paramedic who was tasked with taking care of her.

The suspects were caught shortly afterwards, mainly because they aren’t very intelligent criminals, and because of a police officer’s glance in the right direction at the right time. They still haven’t gone to trial, almost two years later. The suspects have languished in a county jail, while Elizabeth’s boyfriend has moved on. Elizabeth lays dead, her life tragically cut short for no reason whatsoever, and the wheels of justice have ground to a halt.

I didn’t run the call, but I know who did. I know calls like this can impact a paramedic, as I have run my fair share of them.

Also, I know her name. Other people know her name. But I have yet to see a news story about her story. I have seen only a snip or two of a newspaper article. I haven’t seen any liberals protesting over “another senseless death due to gun violence.” I haven’t heard any calls for justice from self-appointed “community leaders.” I haven’t witnessed any protests over her tragic, senseless death.

And those protests and calls and actions and outrage won’t come. They’ll never happen. Because nobody cares about Elizabeth. Nobody cares about a young woman who used to be a stripper and a hooker who straightened her life out. Nobody cares that three gang-bangers committed a gang-banger crime when they broke into that apartment and murdered a young woman. Nobody cares that one drug dealer got away because he was such a chickenshit that he left his girlfriend to die. Nobody cares that three young men who should have been in prison will never see the light of day again.

Nobody cares that, had the law been followed, and had sentences been served, Elizabeth would be alive today.

Nobody cares about Elizabeth. Because she had a future.


I’ve run my last EMS call.

For a while, at least. A good, long while. I can’t say when, if ever, I will put on a uniform shirt again. I’m not sure that I will ever call in service again, or ever step into an ambulance again.

I just can’t take it any more. I’m done.

I’m tired of the continued incompetence of my coworkers and colleagues.

I’m tired of having to follow protocols that are written for the lowest common denominator.

I’m tired of stupid policies written by people who have never worked on an ambulance, and policies enforced selectively and for no good reason.

I’m tired of being criticized by management with less experience, and a lower level of certification than myself.

I’m tired of my fellow paramedics harming patients and not facing repercussions, simply because “they show up on time.”

I’m tired of shaking my head every time I hear a new story about a new screw up.

Pronouncing people dead without touching them. Defibrillating (repeatedly) a patient in a paced rhythm who is conscious. Giving adenosine to a patient having a STEMI because the paramedic thought atrial fibrillation in the 130s was causing the problem. Giving solu-medrol to patients with pneumonia, and albuterol to patients in CHF. Giving mag sulfate to a dialysis patient having a mild asthma attack. Refusing to honor a valid, presented DNR in the presence of a family because “I think I can save him.”

I’m just so damned tired.

I love my job, I love my patients (mostly), and I love my partner. But I can’t do this any more.

I realize that these problems may be specific to my service, but I really don’t think they are. Can you honestly say that your ambulance service has none of these problems? Your service doesn’t have incompetent management or incompetent field crews?

If your service is really different from mine, are you hiring?

Right now, I’m taking at least a six-week break. I wonder if I’ll miss it.